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March, 2018
Volume 44, Number 1
  
14 February 2014
Greg Kandra




Pope Francis greets Stanley Bergman, president of the American Jewish Committee, during a meeting at the Vatican on 13 February. The pope said the modern relationship between Jews and Catholics has a “theological foundation” and is “not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem.” (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Maronite patriarch: negotiations for release of nuns have “stumbled” (ByzCath.org) The patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church said that the release of a dozen kidnapped Syrian nuns appeared imminent until recently. In December, Syrian rebel forces abducted the nuns from the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Taqla in the historic Christian village of Ma’loula, whose residents still speak Aramaic...

UN urged to act on humanitarian aid to Syria (New York Times) The hard-won humanitarian cease-fire in the Syrian city of Homs — the sole success that occurred during the peace talks in Geneva — cannot be considered “progress,” the United Nations’ top official for emergency operations said Thursday evening as she urged the Security Council to ensure that aid reach those who need it and aid workers can do their work without getting shot...

Peace talks continue in Geneva over Syria (Reuters) Warning that “failure” was staring him in the face, the Syria peace talks mediator said on Thursday that the United States and Russia had promised renewed support to keep their rival Syrian allies talking. U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi met senior diplomats from Washington and Moscow in Geneva, hoping the co-sponsors of the three-week-old negotiating process could bury their own deep differences over Syria and prevail respectively on the opposition and government to move ahead and compromise...

Pope Francis meets with American Jewish leaders, asks for prayers ahead of trip to Holy Land (CNS) Pope Francis asked leaders of the American Jewish Committee to pray for his May trip to Jerusalem, “so that this pilgrimage may bring forth the fruits of communion, hope and peace.” The modern relationship between Jews and Catholics, he said on 13 February, has a “theological foundation” and is “not simply an expression of our desire for reciprocal respect and esteem.” Pope Francis noted that in 2015, the Catholic Church will mark the 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with other religions. The document, the pope said, is “the sure point of reference for relations with our ‘elder brothers.’”...

Alcoholism, crime on the rise in Kerala (ABC.net) The southern Indian state of Kerala, often referred to as God’s own country, has the best socio-economic indicators in the country. But its alarming alcohol addiction is earning the state a name for all the wrong reasons as the crime rate there also increases. The god of choice here is Bacchus, the Roman deity of wine. Alcoholism, among all age groups, is on the rise and it’s taking a toll on the state’s 33 million-strong population. In fact, Kerala has earned the tag of India’s “booziest state”, with the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country...

Ethiopia’s church forests threatened (California Academy of Sciences) Northern Ethiopia is hardly known for its forests. Less than 5 percent of what once stood here remains, and what’s left is under constant threat. As in so many developing countries, much of Ethiopia’s natural landscape has been cleared for agriculture, and for harvesting timber and firewood. Fortunately, there are still hundreds of notable exceptions: bright green patches of forest surrounding the country’s churches. Protected as sacred sanctuaries, some of these forests are over fifteen hundred years old. They range in size from just five acres to more than 1,000. A direct result of the Orthodox Church’s mission to retain a green necklace around the place of worship — a veritable “home for all God’s creatures” — these forests have become the centerpiece in the struggle to conserve what remains of northern Ethiopia’s biodiversity...



12 February 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from September 2013, children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Syria. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)

Witnessing Syria’s war through the eyes of its children (PBS) Nearly three years into the fighting, more than 10,000 children have been killed, 3 million have been displaced from their homes, and another 1.1 million now live as refugees, according to a recent United Nations report. Amid such turmoil, the notion of a normal childhood has all but disappeared for the young bystanders of war featured in last night’s FRONTLINE investigation, Children of Aleppo

Patriach headed to Vatican for talks (iloubnan.info) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter left Beirut on Tuesday morning, bound for the Vatican, where he will be staying for two weeks for talks with the Supreme Pontiff and to take part in the papal committees’ meetings. “I have one wish which I insist to express: If a cabinet were to be formed, it should not pave the way for a new crisis,” he said in a statement he had delivered prior to his departure…

Islamic extremists slaughter 15 soldiers in Northern Iraq (New York Times) Fighters from a Sunni extremist group attacked an army unit in a northern Iraqi city on Tuesday, killing 15 soldiers in a rampage of beheadings, shootings and a hanging, security officials said. The strike on the army unit in Mosul by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, showed how the group has moved beyond Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where it controls Falluja and parts of Ramadi, and extended its reach into territory throughout the country…

Governor of Basra vows to help Iraqi Christians return home (AsiaNews) Shiite leader Majid al Nasrawi, governor of Basra met with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I and vowed: “We will help Christians to return to the province, giving them a piece of land to cultivate and creating job opportunities and development for those who have fled in the past because of violence and insecurity…”

Russian church to be consecrated in Antarctica (Interfax) An expedition is traveling from Moscow to Antarctica to conduct a consecration of the southernmost Russian Orthodox church on earth…



Tags: Syrian Civil War Children Russian Orthodox Church Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I

11 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti says he is inspired by the acts of Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Nick Schifrin reports. (video: Al Jazeera)

In West Bank settlements, Israeli jobs are double-edged sword (New York Times) The personal conflict that thousands of Palestinians face working for Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank is particularly stark for Hassan Jalaita, who for 18 years has repaired Israeli Army jeeps at the Zarfati garage here. Those are the very same jeeps that confront Mr. Jalaita at the checkpoint he crosses each morning — the same ones that sweep through villages where his friends and relatives live. But those jeeps also help pay his $1,471 monthly salary at Zarfati, more than triple the minimum wage in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, where a 19 percent unemployment rate and lack of labor laws make finding a decent job difficult. “I feel like I’m not a human being — we are serving the occupation,” said Mr. Jalaita…

Russian wives in Gaza long for home (Al Monitor) “I miss the scent of the forest. Sometimes, I feel that I can smell it.” This is what Svetlana Birova misses most from “Mother Russia” after 20 years in the Gaza Strip. “Although I miss my country, I consider my homeland to be where my husband, my son and my daughter Miriam are. I remember the difficulties I faced in the first years here because of the difference in cultures, but, with the help of my husband, I resisted homesickness,” Birova said. Birova isn’t the only Russian here in Gaza: There are more than 80 Russian women married to Gazan men living in the Strip. This is in addition to hundreds of other women from former Soviet states, according to the Compassionate Hearts Association, which is concerned with the affairs of these women…

Syria and rebels agree to extend rescue effort in city of Homs (Los Angeles Times) A plan to provide humanitarian aid to besieged residents in the Syrian city of Homs was extended Monday for three days, the United Nations announced, as a new round of Syrian peace talks began. The U.N. said the fresh cease-fire was reached to allow for the delivery of aid and the rescue of more civilians from Homs’ Old City, which is under rebel control and has been cut off from the rest of the city for almost two years. It came on the heels of a three-day effort that began Friday…

To protect Shiites, Hezbollah imposes its own checkpoints in Lebanon (Christian Science Monitor) The unusual sight of armed and uniformed Hezbollah men checking passing traffic underlines the fear and anger that has gripped Shiite areas of Lebanon amid an unprecedented spate of suicide bomb attacks that have left at least 40 people dead and nearly 300 wounded. It also raises the possibility of reciprocal checkpoints in Sunni areas, undermining the Lebanese army’s role as guarantor of internal stability. “The army said that if they allowed us to have checkpoints in Hermel they would have to allow the Sunnis to have checkpoints in Arsal,” a source close to Hezbollah says, referring to a Sunni town in the northeast Bekaa Valley that is a bedrock of support for the Syrian opposition…

Hundreds of Eritreans enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt (The Guardian) Hundreds of Eritrean refugees have been enslaved in torture camps in Sudan and Egypt in the past ten years, enduring weeks or months of violence and rape and extorted by traffickers often in collusion with state security forces. Some of the refugees have died, and many have been scarred for life — both physically and psychologically — as a result of mutilation, burning, beatings and sexual assault, according to dozens of testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch in a report published on Tuesday…

Ukrainian Catholic leader warns Ukraine could kick off new Cold War (RISU) If the United States and Europe abandon Ukraine or if they do not adopt a proactive policy, humanity may well be on the verge of a new Cold War, said Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on Chas Time, a U.S. news program broadcast by satellite to Ukraine…



Tags: Lebanon Syrian Civil War Gaza Strip/West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict Eritrea

10 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Syrian refugees living in Jordan wait to receive humanitarian supplies in Amman on 5 February. Syrians fleeing to neighboring Jordan from the besieged central city of Homs said some people there are starving to death for lack of food. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Break in siege is little relief to Syrian city (New York Times) A three-day humanitarian cease-fire in the Syrian city of Homs was supposed to be a small breakthrough, a moment of relief for civilians trapped in a grim civil war. But mortar rounds and gunfire struck near aid convoys, damaging vehicles and leaving victims lying in the streets. Snipers fired on civilians as they fled their besieged neighborhood. Others refused to leave, fearing a massacre of those left behind. Limited food made it in, and some of the nearly 700 people who reached safety said they had been surviving on one meal a day and that some of their neighbors had resorted to eating grass…

Syrian town of Sednaya battles armed groups (Al Monitor) The damage caused by the battles on the way leading to the Sednaya monastery is not major: some crumbled rocks or burnt grass. However, inside the monastery, the magnitude of damage is striking — whether it is the broken glass or the multiple blows inflicted to the roof. The destruction was caused by missiles used by gunmen to try to bring down the bronze sculpture of Christ. It is not the first time that the monastery has been attacked. A year ago, mortar shells fell on it and there were attempts to infiltrate it. The latest attack was the fourth…

Gunman kills two at Orthodox cathedral in Russian far east (Los Angeles Times) A gunman opened fire on worshipers at a Russian Orthodox cathedral on Sakhalin Island off Russia’s Pacific coast, killing a nun and a parishioner in an attack that rattled nerves across the nation. The gunman’s motives were unknown, and investigators at the scene said the suspect, who was in custody, would be subjected to a mental health evaluation. Sakhalin Island is more than 4,000 miles from the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Russia is hosting the Winter Olympic Games amid intense security fears…

Pro-government protesters clash with opponents in Ukraine (Vatican Radio) A tense calm has returned to the streets of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, following clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators. It comes at a time when protesters are remembering those who died in more than two months of unrest. Amid tensions, some 90 wooden crosses can now be seen on the barricades in central Kiev, were anti-government protesters have demanded the resignation of the president…

Bosnia: ‘It’s just like Ukraine’ (Deutsche Welle) Anti-government protests in Bosnia died down (BBC) over the weekend. However, former German envoy to Bosnia Christian Schwarz-Schilling tells D.W. that the problems there won’t go away for some time. “Once the poverty level reaches a certain barrier, once pensioners no longer receive their pensions, when teachers no longer receive their salaries and policemen aren’t paid — which is on the horizon — then a violent movement is more than likely to emerge. … It’s just like with Ukraine. There, the international community woke up only after a critical situation arose. The same thing will happen in Bosnia…”

Ecumenical patriarch delivers speech on dialogue and peace (Hurriyet Daily News) “Human conflict may well be inevitable in our world; but war and violence are certainly not,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. “The pursuit, however, of dialogue and peace calls for a radical reversal of what has become the normative way of survival in our world. It demands a transformation of values that are deeply seeded in our hearts and societies, hitherto determining our relationship with those who challenge our worldview or threaten our lifestyle. Transformation in the spiritual sense is our only hope of breaking the cycle of violence and injustice…”



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Russia Bosnia and Herzegovina

7 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




A boy pushes a stroller holding water and another child past destroyed buildings in the besieged area of Homs, Syria, on 2 February. Syrians fleeing to neighboring Jordan from Homs said some people there are starving to death for lack of food. (photo: CNS/Thaer al Khalidiya, Reuters)

Evacuation of Syrian civilians begins in besieged city of Homs (Al Jazeera) The evacuation of civilians from a besieged area of the Syrian city of Homs has begun under a humanitarian deal agreed to this week, Syrian state television reported Friday. The siege of Homs has gone on for more than a year amid Syria’s relentless civil war, and activists say 2,500 people are trapped in the area, struggling with hunger and a lack of basic necessities. Many other Syrians across the country are under similar situations and are in desperate need of aid. A U.N. convoy of buses has arrived in Homs to start the initial evacuation of 200 women and children. The evacuation will not include men between the ages of 15 and 55, who are deemed most likely to be fighters…

As Israeli doctors aid Syrians, humanitarianism trumps geopolitics (Los Angeles Times) As civil war rages in Syria, with an estimated 130,000 people killed and millions displaced after nearly three years of fighting, Israel has been quietly providing aid to some of the wounded. Since the Israeli army launched the effort, officials say, more than 700 Syrians have received treatment at medical centers in Israel or at a field hospital operated by medics along the heavily fortified border. Patients have come from as far away as Homs, three hours to the north…

Amid truce, Hamas struggles to rein in rockets (Washington Post) Officially, a 14-month-old cease-fire between the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and its enemy, Israel, is holding. Unofficially, it is a truce that grows tenser by the day, as Hamas struggles to rein in armed factions that are not completely under its control. This kind of escalation has led to two wars in the past five years, and there is a palpable sense today that another could be on the horizon…

Lebanese politicians praise patriarch’s charter (Daily Star Lebanon) Politicians Thursday hailed the national charter announced by the Maronite Church a day earlier, saying it reflected Bkerke’s eagerness to preserve coexistence and the Lebanese state. After visiting Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter on Thursday, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, from the Progressive Socialist Party, said the charter reflected the will of the Lebanese to live together in peace. The charter stressed the need for the timely election of a new president and for Muslim-Christian partnership to run Lebanon…

Chaldean patriarch and grand mufti meet to discuss unity (AsiaNews) Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I and Grand Mufti of Iraq Sheikh Rafi Taha al Rifai met to discuss strategies to strengthen relations between the Christian and Muslim communities, as well as to encourage “joint action” to achieve the goal of a “lasting peace” in the country. The meeting dates back to 31 January, but details only recently emerged on the official website of the Chaldean Patriarchate, describing its atmosphere and objectives…

Ukraine: leak raises diplomatic tensions (Vatican Radio) In published remarks, an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. was funding Ukrainian “rebels” by as much as $20 million a day for weapons and other supplies. Sergei Glazyev urged the Ukrainian government to put down the “attempted coup,” and said Russia may have to intervene under the terms of a 1994 agreement between the United States and Russia…

Egypt: Six police wounded in twin Cairo bomb attacks (BBC) Six police officers have been wounded after two bombs went off in Cairo, the Egyptian health ministry says. The blasts were heard before 10 a.m. local time in the Giza area and were around two minutes apart. Local media report that the bombs targeted police vehicles stationed near a bridge…



Tags: Lebanon Ukraine Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Christian-Muslim relations

6 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




From 27-29 January the Canonization Committee of the Armenian Apostolic Church convened in the Mother Cathedral of the Great House of Cilicia. Prior to the meeting, the members of the Canonization Committee met with Catholicos Aram I, center, who offered a benediction. (photo: Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin)

Canonization committee convened to discuss massacre victims (Fides) Almost a century since the events that many call “the Armenian Genocide” — carried out in the territories of Turkey in 1915 — the Armenian Apostolic Church firmly and definitively confirms its intention to proceed with the canonization for martyrdom of the victims of what the Armenians call the “Great Evil…”

Syria: Deal struck to evacuate civilians from Homs (Lebanon Daily Star) The United Nations and Syria have reached a deal to allow aid into besieged areas of Homs and give civilians safe passage out, state news agency SANA said Thursday. “Homs governor Talal al Barazi and U.N. resident coordinator Yaacoub al Hillo have reached an agreement securing the exit of innocent civilians from the Old City [of Homs] and the entrance of humanitarian assistance for civilians who choose to stay,” it reported…

U.N. report condemns torture, sexual abuse of Syrian children (Al Jazeera) Children in Syria have been subjected to torture and sexual violence during the years-old civil war, the United Nations has said, calling on both government forces and armed opposition groups to stop the brutal treatment of minors caught up in the conflict. The plea comes as violence in Syria continues despite attempts to bring the unrest to an end…

Israel approves plans for 550 Jerusalem settler housing units (The Jordan Times) Israel pushed forward on Wednesday with plans for more than 550 new housing units in three settlement neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem, the city council said. In a move likely to escalate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians as they hold U.S.-backed peace talks, the council said it had granted private contractors permits to build 386 units in Jabal Abu Ghneim — known to Israelis as Har Homa — 136 units in Neve Yaakov and 36 units in Pisgat Zeev…

Ukraine: a voice from the barricades (Vatican Radio) The international community is putting pressure on the Ukrainian government to take immediate steps to resolve the nation’s political crisis. Over two months of intense protests have put President Yanukovych under substantial pressure. Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to Bogdan Voron, creator of one of the art projects giving voice to the protesters in Kiev…



Tags: Ukraine Syrian Civil War Israeli-Palestinian conflict Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church

4 February 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




In this video, Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports on a refugee community in Arsal, Lebanon, that received funding to run an informal school. The school teaches the full Syrian curriculum, and though students do not receive certificates, time spent in class is always fruitful. (video: Al Jazeera)

Syria in need of humanitarian corridors (Vatican Radio) Despite sharp differences over the conflict in Syria, Russia and Western countries have joined forces to initiate peace talks that began last month in Geneva. Meanwhile, a meeting in Rome yesterday aimed at tackling the humanitarian crisis stemming from the Syrian conflict…

Syria: Dutch priest trapped in Homs says residents going mad with hunger (The Telegraph) A Dutch priest trapped in the siege on the Syrian city of Homs has told how residents around him are being driven mad with starvation, as they are “abandoned” by the international community. The Rev. Frans Van der Lugt, a 75-year-old Roman Catholic and local leader in the besieged Old City in Homs, told of his community’s battle for survival in two years of living in a district brutalized by war and without food. “Our city has become a lawless jungle,” said Father Van der Lugt. “We are trying our best to behave in a fraternal way, so that we don’t turn on each other for the hunger…”

Maronite priest new president of Caritas Lebanon (Fides) The Council of Catholic Patriarchates and Priests, which convenes under Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter, appointed the Maronite Rev. Paul Karam as new president of Caritas Lebanon on 31 January. Father Karam is currently the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon. The decision was made after assessing Caritas Lebanon’s role in light of increasing social challenges posed by the deluge of Syrian refugees — nearly 900,000 according to U.N. sources, or more than a million according to the Lebanese authorities — and the catastrophic conditions in which many of them live…

Police working against the abduction of Copts (Fides) In the first days of February, Egyptian security forces carried out a huge operation in the city of Assiut to dismantle an organized crime network that for months organized kidnappings, robberies and extortion against the local Coptic community. Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut sees a decisive change of pace in the intervention carried out by the local police. “For months and months,” he says, describing the prevailing situation before this shift, “Coptic families and entire communities in Assiut and the province have lived in anguish. Kidnappings took place every day. … The perpetrators of these crimes were known to all, but when the Copts claimed and reported them to the security forces, nothing happened…”

Ukraine political impasse headed for parliament (Al Jazeera) Leaders of the anti-government protests that have gripped Ukraine’s capital for more than two months said they will seek constitutional changes Tuesday that would weaken the president’s powers. Meanwhile, Western officials are returning to the country this week in an attempt to resolve the political crisis, with help that could come partly in the form of a financial aid package currently under discussion between the United States and European Union. The constitutional changes were expected to be discussed in a parliamentary session Tuesday as Ukraine’s political crisis continues unabated, with protesters still refusing to leave their encampment in downtown Kiev or vacate buildings they occupy. The demonstrators, who clashed with police last month, are holding to an uneasy truce, and taking pains to adopt tactics of persuasion, as seen in this video



Tags: Syria Egypt Lebanon Ukraine Refugees

3 February 2014
Greg Kandra




In this image from 2011, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill celebrates Christmas liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. Last week, he joined Patriarch John X. Yzigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in issuing a plea for peace in Syria.
(photo: CNS/Denis Sinyakov, Reuters)


Syria hits areas held by rebels in Aleppo (New York Times) Syrian government aircraft continued to strike rebel-held areas in Aleppo with makeshift bombs on Sunday, killing at least three dozen people, most of them women and children, antigovernment activists said. The bombs were dropped across neighborhoods in the south and east of the country’s largest city, reducing cinder-block apartment buildings to rubble and leaving crowds of men searching the debris for survivors, according to videos posted online...

Russian, Greek Orthodox leaders join in call for peace in Syria (AsiaNews) The Moscow Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch have launched a joint appeal for peace and independence of Syria. “The two churches believe that only through open and honest dialogue true peace its independence and territorial integrity be guaranteed in Syria, and equal rights and opportunities for its citizens ensured,” reads the statement issued on 30 January, at the end of Patriarch John X Yazigi’s visit to Moscow...

Protestors fill Kiev’s square as president returns to work (EuroNews) Ukraine’s embattled president has announced that he is returning to work on Monday after four days’ sick leave. It came as thousands of protesters filled Kiev’s main square — demanding that he give up power. Opposition leaders, fresh from meeting European US officials at a conference in Munich, told the crowd that they would secure international aid of they were able to take power. “We have a common understanding with our Western partners about what should be done in Ukraine and how much money it requires,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of Ukraine’s opposition Fatherland Party. “But first of all, the question is who will be executing this plan of change for Ukraine, as no one trusts this regime”...

Pope’s first Lenten message to focus on poverty (Catholic News Service) Pope Francis has chosen the theme, “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich,” for this year’s Lenten message, said a Vatican statement on 31 January. The theme comes from a verse from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians where the apostle is promoting generosity in giving and wishes to “test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others.” The full verse reads: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich,” (2 Cor 8:9). The text of the pope’s message for Lent, which begins on 5 March, was to be released at a Vatican news conference on 4 February...

Cyberactivists say dreams of democracy in Middle East unrealized (Catholic News Service) Cyberactivists from Egypt and throughout the Middle East said their dreams of freedom of expression and democracy are unrealized. They are caught in a vise of surveillance and censorship, no matter if the military or Muslim Brotherhood hold the reins of power in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that saw longtime rulers toppled three years ago. “I’m wanted by three different branches by the security forces, mainly because they have their own propaganda about the revolution,” said Marcell Shehwaro, a young Syrian Christian blogger. “I work against it. I was forced to flee my house, my family and my friends” to live in an area under opposition control...

Kerala considers bill to stop lavish weddings (Business Standard) The Kerala government will soon come up with a bill that will prevent ostentatious weddings where people flaunt their wealth, Social Welfare Minister M.K. Muneer said here Monday. Muneer told the state assembly that the situation has reached such a “dangerous level” where weddings only mean flaunting of one’s wealth. “We are working out on how we can prevent this excessive flaunting of wealth on the occasion of weddings and it would be through a new law,” he said.



31 January 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




Ibrahim Fahmy, 18, center, poses for a photo with co-workers on 17 January outside the silver shop where they work in Cairo. Mr. Fahmy says he supports Egypt’s new constitution because he believes it can create the stability needed for foreign tourists to return. (photo: CNS/James Martone)

New Egyptian constitution holds promise for Copts (National Catholic Register) After enduring the worst persecution in centuries, a new constitution gives Coptic Christians renewed hope for civil rights and freedom in Egypt, but a lot of work remains. “It is good — not very good — but it is good,” said the Rev. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Conference. “It could not have been better given the context we are living now.” The new constitution’s vision of a pluralistic and inclusive civil state now depends not only on translating it into laws, but also translating it into Egyptian hearts and minds, Father Greiche added…

Gaza youth dream of jobs in Qatar (Al Monitor) On 14 January the Palestinian and Qatari governments signed an agreement for the recruitment of 20,000 professional and specialized Palestinian workers to find employment in Qatar, in addition to the estimated 20,000 Palestinians who have already been working for years in the Gulf state…

Peace plan lets most Jewish settlers remain in West Bank, envoy says (Washington Post) Roughly three-quarters of Jewish settlers in the West Bank would be included in redrawn Israeli borders envisioned under U.S.-backed peace negotiations, the lead U.S. envoy told American Jewish leaders on Thursday…

Church leaders in Ukraine call for national unity (Church Times) At a meeting predominantly of clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate in Odessa (in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea coast, a Russian-speaking area) last Saturday, the call was for moderation, but also national unity: “We especially encourage local elites — political, cultural, intellectual, social — do not rock the boat in which you sit. Do not think that the current conflicts are careless political games. Be aware that we are one family and that we live in the same home: Ukraine…”

U.N. calls for Ukraine torture probe as activist speaks of being ‘crucified’ (Al Jazeera) A Ukrainian anti-government activist who disappeared a week ago during widespread protests in and around Kiev has resurfaced with his face badly beaten and with wounds to his hands, saying his abductors tortured and “crucified” him. “They crucified me, they nailed down my hands. They cut off my ear, they cut my face. There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten,” Bulatov said. “Thank God, I am alive.” He also said he was kept in the dark at all times, and could not identify his captors…

Syria peace talks adjourn with little progress but some hope (Los Angeles Times) The first round of long-awaited Syrian peace talks ended Friday in Geneva with no breakthrough but with both sides planning to meet again and resume negotiations. “Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner,” Lakhdar Brahimi, the chief United Nations negotiator, told reporters in Geneva. “This is a very modest beginning, but it is a beginning on which we can build…”

Mideast cyberactivists say dreams of democracy remain unrealized (CNS) Cyberactivists from Egypt and throughout the Middle East said their dreams of freedom of expression and democracy are unrealized. They are caught in a vise of surveillance and censorship, no matter if the military or Muslim Brotherhood hold the reins of power in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that saw longtime rulers toppled three years ago…



Tags: Egypt Ukraine Gaza Strip/West Bank Middle East Unity

30 January 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro




The Dutch Rev. Frans van der Lugt, S.J., prays at the residence of the Jesuit fathers in the besieged area of Homs, Syria, on 29 January. The priest recently made an appeal for help in a YouTube video, highlighting severe shortages of food and medicine. The Rev. Ziad Hilal, a fellow Jesuit, made note of Father Van der Lugt’s stalwart presence in his Letter From Syria, published in the Summer 2013 issue of ONE. (photo: CNS/Yazan Homsy, Reuters)

Syria allegedly demolishing neighborhoods to punish residents (The Guardian) The Syrian government has demolished thousands of buildings, in some cases entire neighborhoods, in parts of Damascus and Hama, as part of a collective punishment against residents of rebel-held areas, Human Rights Watch says. Satellite imagery taken over both cities has revealed seven areas where neighborhoods have either been largely destroyed or totally demolished. None of the destruction was caused during combat. Rather, the buildings have been systemically destroyed using bulldozers and explosives placed by troops who first ordered residents to leave and then supervised the demolitions…

Starving to death in Syria’s Yarmouk camp (Al Jazeera) In the Yarmouk refugee camp, more than 55 people have died from hunger and the majority of children are suffering from malnutrition, according to Abdullah al Khatib, a Palestinian activist living there. Most people are consuming soup made from water and spices, Khatib said, and some are reportedly eating grass for survival. Starvation conditions continue despite recent United Nations efforts to get much-needed food through the street battles and checkpoints, and most residents are still searching garbage piles for anything edible, Khatib told Al Jazeera on Monday. Until last week, food aid had not been delivered to the camp since September 2013…

Ukraine tensions high after amnesty laws’ adoption (Vatican Radio) Tensions remain high in Ukraine’s capital after the government approved an amnesty for anti-government protesters, following deadly violence in which as many as five people died. Opposition parties abstained from voting because the legislation contains unacceptable conditions, while the European Union’s top envoy and neighboring countries expressed concern about the situation…

Amid ‘civil war’ talk, Kremlin keeps wary eye on Ukraine (Christian Science Monitor) Russia has offered strong assurances of non-intervention in a fast-unraveling Ukraine. But experts say the Kremlin is watching events in Kiev with mounting concern as central government control grows increasingly tenuous — and warn that Moscow may react badly if the ten-week-old protest movement leads to sweeping constitutional changes in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin told European Union leaders in Brussels Tuesday that Moscow will not change the terms of its financial-aid package to Ukraine, even if the government in Kiev changes, and will not interfere in the increasingly turbulent political crisis there. He chided European Union officials for what he described as cheerleading for anti-government protesters, and warned against the urge to “mediate” in the struggle for Ukraine’s soul…

The verdict on the wall in the Cremisan Valley has been postponed (Fides) The Supreme Court of Israel has postponed the verdict on the route of the separation wall. Israeli authorities plan to build a security wall in the Cremisan Valley, on the land of 58 Palestinian families in Beit Jala and two Salesian religious communities. The Society of St. Yves, a Catholic human rights, filed the lawsuit against the construction of the wall in the Cremisan Valley. Those in attendance at yesterday’s hearing included Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, several priests of the patriarchate, the mayors of Bethlehem and Beit Jala and the representatives of 13 consulates of foreign countries…

Maronite patriarch: Lebanon needs a president (AsiaNews) Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter I, in an interview yesterday with Lebanese daily As Safir, said that the election of a new president, national unity and respect for the constitution are some of some of the urgent issues the country must address. The church leader, also a cardinal of the Catholic Church, decried attempts to postpone the presidential elections. “The problem is that everyone wants to divide the country according to his perspective instead of becoming as one…”

Chaldean patriarch reflects on first year leading church, future of church (AsiaNews) In a pastoral letter addressed to the bishops, priests, nuns and faithful on the occasion of the first anniversary of his election as leader of the Chaldean Church, Patriarch Louis Raphael I discussed concerns such as massive emigration, fragmentation, isolation, the revision of the liturgy. “Our church is invited to rebuild what was destroyed and distorted, gather the scattered” and call back those who have fled…

Egypt says charging Al Jazeera journalists with terrorism (Christian Science Monitor) The Egyptian prosecutor’s office today said it had charged 20 journalists working with the Al Jazeera news network, including four foreigners, with various charges including belonging to or aiding a terrorist organization and broadcasting false news. But the prosecutor’s statement did not list the names of the defendants, and it was unclear who had been charged. The terrorism charges send a chilling message to journalists who veer from the government’s view of events in Egypt…



Tags: Syria Egypt Ukraine Middle East Separation Barrier





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